Ink & Pixel: Lilo & Stitch

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I’m always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fanbase, Ink & Pixel has been granted permission to broaden its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy genres. I hope that you enjoy this bold new direction for the column. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at [email protected] so we can discuss it further.

Aloha! Presently, it’s six-degrees-Fahrenheit outside of my window, and I’ll be damned if I’m not taking us someplace tropical for this week’s Ink & Pixel! That’s right, we’re headed to the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi, where we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the 42nd Walt Disney Animated Classic: LILO & STITCH.

Written and directed by both Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, LILO & STITCH was produced (mostly) inside the walls of Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studio, Orlando, Florida. The intent behind this island bound, intergalactic adventure was to create a “low budget, big return” film. LILO & STITCH gained the adoration of movie-goers everywhere, and treated Disney fans to one of the most adorable alien creatures to ever crash land at the House of Mouse.

For those of you who have yet to experience the film, LILO & STITCH tells the tale of fierce and genetically-crafted alien killing machine referred to as Experiment 626 (Chris Sanders). Illegally created by the mad scientist Dr. Jumba Jookiba (David Ogden Stiers), and viewed as an abomination by the Galactic Federation – Experiment 626 is sentenced to a life of imprisonment after a brief and unjust trial conducted by his peers and various galactic authorities. Fearing for his life, Experiment 626 manages to escape via spaceship during the incarceration process, only to randomly crash land on Earth among the lush foliage of the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi.

Living on the beautiful island, but experiencing hardships of trying to build a new life for themselves in the wake of their parents passing, are sisters Nani and Lilo. Nani, hoping that a pet will be of some comfort to her grieving, younger sister, permits Lilo to adopt a dog. It’s at the animal shelter that Lilo finds a disguised Experiment 626, to whom she then appoints the name of Stitch. In the days that follow, Lilo discovers that her new pet isn’t a dog at all, but rather an alien on the lamb, looking to make a new life on Earth. Before long, Lilo, Nani, and Stitch find themselves at the heart of a grand adventure, while evading the fiendish Dr. Jumba and his companion Pleakley – who have come to collect Experiment 626 to return him to his home planet where he will be put to death.

Originally, the character of Stitch was conceived by Sanders in 1985, for the purpose of becoming the main character of a children’s book series. As it turns out, publishers were unenthusiastic about investing in Sander’s ideas, so he re-focused his efforts on creating a treatment that would serve to bring Stitch to the silver screen instead. Like many films, LILO & STITCH began as something quite different than the Disney adventure many of us have come to love over the years.

In fact, before the script was re-tooled, Stitch’s story was set to take place in a small town, nestled in the state of Kansas, of all places. However, Sanders soon discovered that the personality of the locale served him very little when looking to expand the scope of his story and characters. It wasn’t long before the decision was made to change venues, and relocate to a tropical island setting. By doing this, LILO & STITCH became the first Disney animated feature to include a non-fictional equatorial setting. Additionally, shifting the location of the film’s story then provided the citizens of Hawaii with an established form of representation within the Disney landscape. I can’t help but wonder what the film would have been like if we’d remained among the farmlands of Kansas to tell this particular story, but there’s an even larger part of me that is content with never finding out.

Trading lush, green grass for soft, sandy beaches wasn’t the only re-write that occurred during the production of LILO & STITCH. A number of moments containing dark subject matter were either stricken from the film, or changed, after not performing well with test audiences. Like what, you ask? One of them is most definitely a scene in which Dr. Jumba infiltrated Lilo and Nani’s home, and proceeded to violently attack Stitch. The scene was meant to reflect the mad doctor’s warped interpretation of tough love for his own invention, but instead left audience members feeling uncomfortable. The scene was then later re-worked to be slightly more comedic in nature, while still making Jumba out to be a bit of a nutcase.

With Stitch entrusted to the care of Nani and Lilo, this action-packed animated comedy closed out its theatrical run with a worldwide total of $273,144, 151. That’s a major return considering that the movie was made using a modest $80 million dollar budget. Additionally, the success of LILO & STITCH didn’t stop there. A direct-to-video sequel entitled STITCH! THE MOVIE appeared on shelves in August of 2003, with yet another sequel called LILO & STITCH 2: STITCH HAS A GLITCH released in 2005.

If that’s not enough to satisfy your love of these characters, there was also a LILO & STITCH television series that aired on the Disney Channel for a total of 2 seasons (65 episodes). Most recently, Stitch has been offered as a playable character in the video game Disney Infinity 2.0 from Disney Interactive and Avalanche Games.

Personally, I don’t know anyone who would be able to resist falling in love with a four-armed, laser gun toting alien – who also knows how to shred on a ukulele, Elvis-style. LILO & STITCH, for me, is one of those “breath of fresh air” Disney animated features. I enjoy the film’s island setting, unforgettable characters, and inherent message of the importance of family and bringing people together. I also enjoy that it’s not one of the more popular Disney films, but that it’s garnered somewhat of a cult status among Disney die-hards instead. Honestly, whatever keeps these characters in people’s hearts, which is where Stitch, Lilo, and Nani certainly belong. Until next time, folks, aloha!


About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.